Wednesday, May 2, 2018

HEY GUYS

And here comes Margot with a lil sentimental farewell paragraph:
This is probably the first time I'm posting to the blog just for the heck of it. I'M GONNA MISS Y'ALL NEXT YEAR. Right now we're sitting in the same classroom, but we're all going to different places this upcoming fall and it's just so crazy. I know we still have prom, senior chapel and, of course, graduation, but today just feels like the end lol. I'm so excited for all of us.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

John Cage

During class on Thursday, we listened to and read up on Morton Feldman a pioneer of the New York school of composers. In this school of composers, perhaps the most famous is John Cage. Cage was heavily inspired by Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, who were both very well known for their radical innovations in music. Cage was also influenced by various East and South Asian cultures. Through his studies of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism, Cage came to the idea of chance controlled music which he started composing in 1951. His most famous piece is titled 4'33" in which there are just four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. This work challenged the usual definitions and assumptions about music experiences. This piece was controversial and started a controversial conversation in musicology. Here are some of his other pieces that you can actually listen to if you would like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShH-Td3ZiKs

Toni Morrison

As most of you know, Toni Morrison has had a very interesting life and is a well-respected author known throughout the country. Many of her quotes are very profound and inspiring (Ms. King even has a poster of one in her room). I found this video of Morrison speaking with the New York Times about her newest novel and other social issues. The video is only six minutes long, so if any of you would like to watch it, I'd highly recommend it:

 https://www.nytimes.com/video/books/1194834031847/a-conversation-with-toni-morrison.html

Rothko

As we watched many of the Rothko's paintings go by while listening to Feldman's music I particularly liked a couple of Rothko's paintings a little more than the other so I thought I'd share them with you now.

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Here are just a few of my favorite pieces by Rothko, please be sure to share your favorites as well.


Why Ella, Toni Morrison?

I know we've brought her up a few times, but I want to discuss Ella a little bit more. She's a really interesting character, and I think we should further consider why Morrison included her. Like Ally brought up, it's important to understand that she killed one of her children as well. However, the reasoning behind her decision was extremely different from Sethe's. Ella chose to not feed her child because it was the product of her rape; whereas, Sethe killed her daughter to protect her from a future of slavery and constant abuse. Ella's actions were derived from a sense of pain and hatred not only directed towards her rapist and child but towards the entire institution that permitted such brutality and agony. On the other hand, Sethe's actions came from a place of love and her need to nurture and shelter her children. However, regardless of the specific reasons, both women killed their children because of the horrible institution of slavery.

This brings me to my more important question. Why does Toni Morrison create Ella's character, and why does she bring up Ella up only in the last part of the novel? Clearly, Ella's character develops an interesting layer to the question regarding the morality of Sethe's murder. We sympathize with Ella when the narrator says, "She had delivered, but would not nurse, a hairy white thing, fathered by the 'lowest yet'" (Morrison 305). Thus, learning about and sympathizing with Ella's experience gives us more perspective on Sethe's experience.

More importantly, the way Ella deals with the present and future teaches us about Morrison's intention while creating Ella's character. As we discussed, Ella believed that the past should never obstruct one's future and that the past should even be "stomped out" if it interfered. By showing a woman that underwent the same horrible past as Sethe and was able to create a future regardless, Morrison shows us that Sethe and others should not allow the past to continue dictating their lives. Ella became a community leader, and her character, in a way, helps Sethe leave behind her past as well to build a future.

Also, I think it's important to note that Morrison only introduces Ella, a woman who also dealt with infanticide, towards the end of the novel. The novel would have been completely different if we had known about Ella's past before because then Sethe's situation would not have felt so much an anomaly. It really makes me think about how my reaction towards Sethe and her infanticide changed before and after meeting Ella.

Feldman and Indeterminacy in Music

I was doing some research on Morton Feldman, the composer who wrote the Rothko Chapel piece, and I found some interesting information about the movement of several American composers in the 50s and 60s who explored similar things in their music. One of the most interesting aspects to these composers is their use of indeterminacy. Indeterminacy refers to the use of compositions that allow for considerable interpretation and freedom to performers. Often, this freedom is introduced by chance as the performer is intended to somehow randomly select how a work is played.  For example, some pieces like Henry Cowell's Mosaic Quartet allows performers to play a series of fragments in a number of different orders. Perhaps the most extreme version of indeterminacy is John Cage's 4'33", which Mrs. Quinet discussed and which consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of rest. These sorts of works explore many postmodern concepts like the nature of art and composition and the subjectivity of music. Morton was closely associated with these and other composers, so I think this helps contextualize the very modern sounding work we listened to in class.

Ella-borating on Infanticide in Beloved

I thought Ella was a really well-written character in Beloved.  I like how her story slowly unfolds.  First we see her helping Stamp, then we see her sort of turn on Sethe after the infanticide, and then finally we see her return to try to “exorcise” Beloved.  However, I also thought her reaction to the infanticide was almost hypocritical…or maybe worse.  She herself refused to nurse her baby, letting it starve for five days and basically just letting it die.  To me, it seemed like she did that out of spite toward her rapists.  Maybe it was some deeper anguish that made her commit this act, though; perhaps she simply didn’t view the baby as hers since the white men impregnated her without her consent.  I’m not really sure.  On the other hand, Sethe deeply loved her children and killed Beloved to protect her from the horrors of Sweet Home and schoolteacher.  In some ways it seems that Sethe’s act of infanticide was more righteous.  Ella clearly doesn’t think so, as she shuns Sethe and expresses a very low opinion of her when Stamp pays Ella a visit about Paul D.

In the end, I’m not exactly sure what to think about Ella’s actions.  Similar to so many other issues we’ve read about this year, I’m not even sure I'm in a position to judge Ella.  (Or Sethe.)  What do you guys think?